SPOILERS ALL BOOKS
Every time Narg reads that on social media he feels like
Having said that they may have a point…
Here are some extracts from a essay titled: A Wheel of time? More like A Wheel of Misogny
Channeling is where the theme of gender essentialism is most explicit; no man can hope to channel saidar, save in situations where he is assisted by a female channeler, and vice versa. The description of channeling is described in great detail; saidin is a “storm” that men must “seize” in order to use; saidar a “river” to be “embraced.” The connotations are not un-sexual: men work magic by being aggressive and dominant, women by being passive and submissive. The walls of gender and sexuality in The Wheel of Time are many spans high; lesbians and bisexual women are extremely rare (and their sexuality is almost always ambiguous, as with Aes Sedai “pillow-friends”), and out of a literal cast of thousands, I counted exactly one (very minor) male character who is explicitly gay.
"being passive and submissive" Phrased that way, it sounds bad. Narg not sure if Jordan ever uses those words though. Surrendering yes, passive and submissive no. Still it will be an easy point for haters to make.
The purpose of this essay is to bemoan the gender stereotypes that Robert Jordan consciously and unapologetically employed. I hope to analyze and compare the treatment, by the narrative, of Jordan’s male and female characters.
A microcosm may be found in the Forsaken, the thirteen most powerful and favored servants of the Dark One. They are more or less evenly divided by gender (eight male, five female). there is a clear difference between the fates of the male and female Forsaken; the men are typically killed instantly, and honorably, struck down in combat by the forces of Light. The Dark One grants them new lives and second chances whenever possible. In contrast, the women are subjected to cruel torture, humiliation, rape, and enslavement, intended to be seen as karmic justice for their evil doings (the fates of Graendal and Semirhage are particularly “ironic”). It is expected that in their fall from power, they will lose control of their own bodies and even their own minds.
This pattern extends throughout the story and its prodigious cast of characters. A plethora of magical instruments exist for the purposes of enslaving female channelers, but not male channelers. One of these, the Oath Rod, can be used to render a female channeler incapable of violating a promise she has sworn upon it. Galina Casban, a cartoonishly evil lesbian Aes Sedai and secret “Darkfriend” is compelled under the pain of torture to swear away her free will on the Oath Rod and serve the Shaido Aiel. The last we see of Galina is her internal monologue in Knife of Dreams, when she despairs of escape and realizes that she will be a slave for the rest of her life.
More common is the a’dam, a literal leash and collar, mentioned above as a tool of the Seanchan Empire, a culture built on absolutism, abasement, and slavery. When the Seanchan invade the continent that is the setting of the narrative, they round up all women capable of channeling and collar them with a’dam. The effects of the device are explained in detail: the holder of the leash “trains” the prisoner by praising her when she obeys orders, and magically administering pain when she does not. The Seanchan treat their slaves like animals, giving them “pet” slave names, and after enough years in servitude, the collared women eventually come to accept their new identity. Many of the powerful, proud Aes Sedai are enslaved in this manner, and tortured until they come to fear freedom and love their masters. Most notable of these is Elaida, the sincere yet incompetent and megalomaniacal usurper of the office of Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai. In The Gathering Storm, she is abducted and collared by Seanchan agents. We see her again in Towers of Midnight, abasing herself before the Seanchan Empress, answering to her slave name, and divulging the Aes Sedai’s secrets eagerly to avoid further torture.
Male antagonists in The Wheel of Time suffer no such indignities. In addition to the Forsaken, General Turan and High Lord Turak of the Seanchan are slain in combat. Couladin, Rand’s rival and leader of the Shaido Aiel, is also killed in battle. Pedron Niall, the cunning commander of the fanatical, Templar-esque Whitecloaks, is assassinated by a subordinate, the even more fanatical Eamon Valda, who usurps power and is later killed in a duel. The scheming King Galldrian of Cairhien is also assassinated. “Slayer”, another enigmatic minion of the Dark One, is killed fighting Perrin Aybara (one of the primary protagonists). They are defeated, but not humiliated; they are killed at the height of their power, not after they have lost it, been cast down, and humbled5. Asmodean, the only real exception to this trend, does not suffer in captivity; Rand often berates him but does not torture him, even allowing him a modest parole and a privileged position in his entourage.
From this perspective, the world of The Wheel of Time must be taken as a tale of misogynistic wish-fulfillment, not as a narrative of fantasy adventure in which women enjoy equality or even superiority to men.
The point about the fates of the female forsaken and their treatment certainly looks bad when you compare it to the males and it does seem like Jordan had a trend going on there. Was it misogynistic wish-fulfillment on his part? No idea, but it does give ammo to people who want to paint it that way.
Narg comes across comments like the above nearly everyday on social media and Narg is sure that as soon as the show is greenlit the haters will start to come out more and the # tagging will start. It doesn’t take much these days for business execs to get nervous and to have knee jerk reactions to social media campaigns.
So Narg puts this question to you: Do you believe the TV show needs to modify aspects of Jordan’s Male/Female dynamic to be more inline with what is considered to be socially acceptable now and if so what changes would you make?